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tv   Nightline  ABC  February 23, 2012 11:35pm-12:00am EST

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nk. tonight on "nightline" -- insanity defense. he claims the devil was the voice of barry white came to him in a vision, before he gunned down a young father, dropping off his son at preschool. tonight, the intriguing connection between the shooter and the victim's wife. and cash course. incredible footage of a high-flying catastrophe. watch as this b.a.s.e. jumper smashes into rocks at 120 miles per hour and survive. but why do people do these things? inside the minds of extreme sports junkies. plus, all my meerkats. it's a family saga filled with love, anger, and a fierce
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mother/daughter rivalry. but this mellow drama stars a gang of meerkats. we show you the cutest soap opera on tv. >> announcer: this is "nightline." february 23rd, 2012. good evening. i'm cynthia mcfadden. tonight, we begin with a riveting trial taking place in atlanta. a young father, gunned down as he dropped his 2-year-old son off in the morning at preschool. the victim, 36-year-old rusty snyderman. and the man on trial for his murder, is pleading insanity. claiming an angel who looked like olivia newton-john, told him to do it. we examine his unusual defense tonight for our series "crime and punishment."
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it was a horrible omen. november 10th, 2010. rusty snyderman had a terrifying run-in with his soon-to-be killer. he was home alone with his 2-year-old son. >> there's a man who was sleeping in his backyard. he's running. i think he has a gun in his back pocket. now, he's running away. i don't know who the hell is he. and i don't want him near my house. >> reporter: snyderman pauses to comfort his young boy. eight days later, he was not just killed. he was excused by the same man. >> a father, shot and killed minutes after dropping off his children at preschool. >> reporter: shot three times in the chest. and then, at point-blank range in the neck, as he lay on the ground. it was a parent's worst nightmare. >> your heart stops. >> when the doctor said he
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didn't survive. >> reporter: it all happened so fast and seems so meticulously planned, the police thought at first it was a professional hit. the killer wore a disguise. a knit cap and a fake beard. and raced off in a silver min ji van. the family offered a $10,000 reward. it took two months before this there was a break in the case. then, bennie newman was charged with murder in the first degree. a high operations manager at general electric, 5,000 people reported to him. including the wife of the dead man. andrea schneiderman. his trial began this week in atlanta. that silver car traced back to him, hemi neumann. this man sold him the gun. >> he started off by saying don't ever have a mistress. >> reporter: even neumann knew he had been caught. his lawyer admitted it in court. >> hemi neumann shot and killed
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rusty schneiderman. >> reporter: the why gets sticky. the prosecutor said neumann killed in cold blood because he was in love with andrea and wanted him out of the way to he could marry her and raise her two children. the defense says neumann is a sick man who killed, not from hatred, but from insanity. >> he has a delusional disorder. >> reporter: and here's the shocker. the defense is arguing a devil that sounded like singer barry white -- ♪ i put you up >> reporter: told him to kill himself. and then, an angel resembling olivia newton-john, told him to kill schneiderman. the prosecution makes one of this. >> he says that andrea's children are his children. >> reporter: the defense is counting on it to save him from
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life in prison. >> the angel told him that rusty was going to harm the children. that he needed to protect the children. that he needed to kill rusty. >> reporter: in order for the insanity defense to be successful, the defense will have to convince the injujury, only that he has a mental illness that caused the hallucinations, they also have to prove he didn't know he was doing anything wrong. that will be tough says this defense attorney. i read that the insanity defense is used in about 1% of criminal cases that go to court. and succeeds in about 1% of those. do you think those -- >> that might be an exaggeration. >> reporter: really? >> yeah. it's very, very rarely used. >> reporter: in this instance, where the defendant has taken the trouble to get a disguise, has fled the scene, doesn't that play into the notion that he realized what he was doing was wrong? >> those are problems. there's no question about it.
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and often times, that's the circumstance that defeats the insanity defense. >> reporter: one key question pursued over the past couple days in the courtroom, was andrea having an affair with hemi neumann? she took the stand and denied it. >> there was no affair. who kills someone else's husband? >> reporter: a whole series of people, from a waitress -- >> she kind of was dancing for him. he pulled her back, groped her. they were groping each other. i know because i kind of turned away. >> reporter: to neumann's real estate agent and friend, testified the two were involved romantically. >> what words did he use? >> that they kissed and they fondled each other. and then, she got up and went into the back room. >> reporter: even one of her closest friends has doubts. >> did andrea admit or deny an affair with her boss at that time after the murder? >> denied it. >> based on all the time you've known andrea. based on your observations of her, her mannerisms, when she
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told you no, did you believe her? >> no. but my heart really wanted to believe her. >> but you didn't believe her? >> reporter: by the end of court today, it seemed andrea was the only one denying an affair. how will that play in court? >> i think it's going to splash back on him because it affects the integrity of his insanity defense. and a jury may infer that she was part of the plot. >> reporter: strangely, both sides will argue to the jury that the affair was very real. the prosecutor's, that it drove him to murder. the defense, that it drove him crazy. whatever the results in court, rusty schneiderman's children will have to grow up without their father. up next, why this famous daredevil says his incredible midair disaster won't stop him from flying again. e emotional here?
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>> announcer: "nightline" continues from new york city, with cynthia mcfadden. if at first your don't succeed, try and try again. it seems to be the philosophy of the bird man. maybe it shouldn't be. the guy nearly died during a b.a.s.e. jump down the side of a south african mountain. speaking from his hospital bed, he says he can't wait to get out there again, so he can jump. so, what is it that drives people like him to keep going back for more? here's abc's dan harris. >> reporter: the video starts with a warning that it may be disturbing to some viewers. then, you see jeb corliss, known as the birdman, take off in his specially-made flying suit. as he bears down the side of
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table mountain in south africa, at 120 miles per hour, everything seems to be going according to plan. but then, he approaches an outcropping of rock, a ledge, marked here by these helium balloons. and he misjudges it, slamming the lower part of his body into the rocks. you can see him bounce off and go tumbling through the air, spiraling, struggling to pull his emergency parachute. and then, landing in the bushes. look at it again in these still pictures. you can see his body hitting the rocks. a team from hbo's "real sports with bryant gumbel" was on the scene. corliss was air-lifted to the hospital, where he has spent the last five weeks. >> i have to be honest. when i impacted, i really thought i was dead. when i hit, i didn't think i could survive a hit like that. >> reporter: we reached him by phone in his hospital bed. >> so, one part of my brain is just going through this concept of fly, fly, fly, fly, fly. you know? keep going, keep going.
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and the other part of my brain was going, well, why even pull at all? you're basically -- you're dead, dude. >> reporter: doctors say it was a miracle he survived. as it turns out, his wounds weren't actually that bad. only broken toes, a broken ankle and a fractured leg. he's set to be released tomorrow. the psychology of this birdman is fascinating. his desire to fly dating back to a childhood fascination with birds. >> i was about 5 years old. i was watching these birds. and i remember seeing them start to fly. and i remember going, you know what? when i get older, i'm going to do that. and people told me, it's not possible. maybe you can't. but i'm going to do that. >> reporter: that desire took on a fresh and dark intensity in his teenage years, when he struggled with depression. >> i decided i wasn't just going to kill myself. i wasn't just going to take a gun and shoot myself in the head. i wasn't going to waste it, you
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know? if i was going to die, i was going to do something with my death. i was going to do something special. >> reporter: since then, corliss has become world-famous, through stunts like diving off the eiffel tower, the statue of jesus in rio, and threading the needle of this archway in the side of a mountain in china. >> that was amazing. >> reporter: while his family hated his dangerous career, corliss said it transformed his depression into something entirely different. >> all of a sudden, i went from being a really dark, really depressed, really unhappy little teenager, to being -- to loving my life. and just loving everything around me. >> reporter: this adrenaline-fueled ecstasy, is on full display in the world of extreme sports, which has really taken off in recent years. with people doing things like climbing mountains with their bare hand, walking across wires suspended hundreds of feet in the air, and hurling themselves off of mountains, in those special suits like the wingman.
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>> they seek thrills. you get a great adrenaline rush when you do this sort of behavior. >> reporter: dr. david zell, from vanderbilt university, has been studying the brains of people who rate themselves as extreme excitement seekers. and he's found that these people have the same sorts of brain structure as drug addicts. >> the person still wants it so much, that desire surpasses any concerns of the problems. >> reporter: and the risks are grave. three skiers died in an avalanche just days ago. the extreme skier, sarah burke, died in an accident just a few weeks ago. and about 30 people in wingsuits have died in the last five years. many of them jeb corliss' friends. listen to his reaction when we asked if he's now going to quit. >> that's so cute. that's what i live for. the only reason i'm getting better is so i can jump again. that's what i do. i mean, there's absolutely
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nothing in this world that's going to stop me from jumping. >> reporter: corliss says the only thing that would stop him from donning the wingsuit would be death. as he told us, would you ever ask a bird if he would stop flying? for "nightline," this is dan harris, in new york. >> wow. part-man, part-bird. just ahead, it's all in the family. for meerkats. [ female announcer ] want to spend less and retire with more? then don't get nickle and dimed by high cost investments and annoying account fees. at e-trade, our free easy-to-use online tools and experienced retirement specialists can help you build a personalized plan. and with our no annual fee iras and a wide range of low cost investments, you can execute the plan you want at a low cost. so meet with us, or go to for a great retirement plan with low cost investments. ♪ for a great retirement plan with low cost investments. how are you? we're going to head on into the interview. john, jacobson...
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they're cute and furry. and you may be surprised to learn, meerkats are an awful lot like us. and meerkat mothers seem to have a lot of the same jobs as human moms. bathing, feeding and arrange for child. i mean, kat care. and just like your house, when momma meerkat gets mad, watch out. here's stephanie sy. >> reporter: in the harsh, barren landscape of the kalahari desert, an animal soap opera plays out. driven by lust, would-be assassins, and a life-threatening rivalry between mother and daughter. >> people are fascinated with
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meerkats because we can see ourselves almost in them. >> reporter: meerkat expert, pam bennett wahlberg, describes meerkat moms as mostly supportive, a little dysfunctional, and held together by strong females. >> they usually become the leader of the group because they may be a little bigger. a little more assertive. >> reporter: a clan of meerkats, led by a 6-year-old matriarch named clinky, lives here. a little of new pups have arrived. and like moms everywhere, clinky is multitasking. finding food. bathing the little ones. and procuring a babysitter, in this case, her oldest daughter, miss bean. but miss bean's attention is diverted by a lone, cocky male from a rival clan, come to seduce her. she has her fling, while her brother keeps watch over the pups. miss bean's slip-up will later come back to haunt her. meerkats are immune to a
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scorpion's poison, but at 12 inches tall and 2 pounds, it's the meerkat that often ends up prey. the cape cobra is one of the most venomous snakes in africa. facing the deadly predator, the meerkats band together. >> it's almost like a dance. they advance together. and they retreat together. they advance together. and retreat together. so, the perception of the predator is it's one, large animal. >> reporter: outnumbered, the snake retreats. unfortunately, the meerkats' survival instinct sometimes turns them against their own. matriarch, clinky, is pregnant again. and so is her daughter, miss bean. but there's only room for one pregnant female per family. >> competition between mothers and their daughters were breeding rights, is sometimes fierce. you don't want to overpopulate your food supply. >> reporter: clinky lashes out at her daughter. a brutal, necessary show of
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dominance. banished, miss bean is alone in the wilderness, with no protecti protection. the stress is too much. and she loses her unborn pups. seasons change fast in the kalahari. as the clan feasts on the rainy season's bounty, a lookout spots trouble. an enemy clan is approaching. and is threatening clinky's family. she has just given birth. but boldly, clinky leads her clan into the skirmish. the enemy is forced to flee. time heals. and at the end of the season, miss bean reappears. will her mother take her back? without pups to feed, miss bean is no longer a threat. and so, is forgiven. the meerkat family is made whole again. for


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